Pricing and availability are accurate as of the piece’s initial publication.
In recent years, the popularity of probiotics has exploded onto the mainstream as a potential way to promote a healthy digestive system and bolster immunity. But that’s not all these supplements can do. An increasing body of research suggests that you can also take probiotics for weight loss. To learn more, we reached out to nutritionists to learn about how these potent supplements can potentially boost your weight loss efforts.
What’s the connection between probiotics and weight loss?
First things first, some important background on probiotics and weight loss from the pros:
“There are a few different ways that probiotics can help with weight loss, but to be clear, what we’re really talking about is gut health and how gut health affects weight and inflammation,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, Integrative Medicine Dietitian and Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“Dysbiosis, an imbalance of good and bad microbes, creates inflammation systemically and in the digestive tract,” says Foroutan. Dysbiosis is unfortunately very common and can come about in a number of ways, including:
- taking antibiotics
- prolonged periods of stress
- poor sleep
- taking NSAIDS
- an unbalanced diet
In regards to an unbalanced diet, Foroutan is specifically talking about eating too much sugar and processed food, too much meat, not enough vegetables, and plant fiber, and not eating fermented foods.
“Excess inflammation in the body makes it really difficult to lose weight, and an unbalanced microbiome contributes to the type of inflammation that encourages weight gain and fluid retention and makes weight loss difficult.”
“Since probiotics help to rebalance gut microbes, they can help balance inflammation in the digestive tract and help weight loss efforts you’re already making be more effective.” Bottom line: Adding a probiotic supplement to your regime without getting rid of unhealthy dietary habits isn’t going to make a difference.
How to take probiotics for weight loss
In addition to taking a probiotic supplement for weight loss, you still need to do all the healthy things that are key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, which Foroutan says include:
- eat a healthy diet
- eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, high fiber whole grains, and legumes, healthy fats
- use herbs and spices liberally
- cut out excess sugar and refined carbohydrates
- learn how to relieve stress
- get adequate restorative sleep
- establish healthy bowel function
With all that in mind, who’s ready to learn how these live microorganisms may be able to help you on the weight loss front? Read on for nutritionist’s insight and the research, along with five of their expert-recommended probiotic supplements.
6 reasons why you should take probiotics for weight loss
1. Probiotics may help with improved energy and glucose metabolism.
“There are some studies that link certain strains with improved energy metabolism and glucose metabolism. While there are some studies on specific bacterial strains, it seems that low diversity is a major culprit in obesity and inflammation,” says Foroutan. “So from that perspective, any high-quality probiotic could be helpful in addition to establishing the habits that promote bacterial diversity. Strains of interest include lactobacillus acidophilus, gasseri, reuteri, and fermentum, and bifidobacterium including B. longum, bifidum, and infantis,” she says.
STAY INFORMED: Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest food news delivered straight to your inbox.
2. Probiotics can help enhance your gut.
“Probiotics can help you lose weight by improving your gut health,” say registered dietitian nutritionists Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT & Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, The Nutrition Twins, and co-founders of the 21-Day Body Reboot. “An unhealthy digestive system leads to an imbalance of gut microbes, and research has suggested that this imbalance could contribute to obesity.” Of course, before starting a new probiotics regime, always consult with your doctor or nutritionist.
3. Coupled with a high-calorie, high-fat diet, probiotics may help ward off pound creepage.
“There’s preliminary research that shows a connection between probiotics and weight management,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-forward registered dietitian nutritionist in the New York City area. “One study in the journal Obesity reveals that supplementing daily with the probiotic VSL#3 may help with protecting against weight gain when you’re also eating a high-calorie, high-fat diet.”
4. Or coupled with a lower-calorie diet, they may help you lose more weight.
“Another study in The British Journal of Nutrition shows that women with obesity who ate a lower-calorie diet and supplemented with a specific strain of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus lost more weight than women taking a placebo,” says Gorin.
5. Probiotics can help keep the two primary families of good bacteria in your gut in a state of harmony.
“Other research shows that probiotics can help to fight obesity when you balance the two main families of good bacteria in the gut—bacteroidetes and firmicutes,” says The Nutrition Twins. “Bodyweight seems to be related to the balance of these two families of bacteria,” they continue. Pretty neat, huh?
6. They contribute to feeling full, which in turn can make you eat less.
Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LDN, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition stresses that this link is in an indirect way, but “foods that contain probiotics as well as nutrients, such as protein and fiber, can help you feel satiated and therefore eat less and lead to weight loss,” she says, adding that foods like kefir and yogurt offer protein and probiotics whereas foods like kimchi and pickled vegetables are good options for probiotics coupled with fiber.
Want to learn even more about how probiotics can help you in addition to weight loss? There are also five surprising benefits of probiotics.
The 5 best probiotic supplements for weight loss
When it comes to buying a quality probiotic supplement, don’t skimp. Always look for those that conduct third-party testing and have trusted quality, efficacy, and purity. “Probiotics have to be alive for them to work, so inexpensive, low-quality supplements, especially when it comes to probiotics, are not worth taking,” says Foroutan.
For weight management specifically, Gorin advises individuals try VSL#3, citing the research she references above. “There haven’t been many studies on probiotics and weight loss specifically, but the results we do have suggests it may be helpful for preventing weight gain,” she says.
2. Orthomolecular Ortho Biotic
One of Foroutan’s favorite, this probiotic may very well become your go-to: “I like this product because it includes all the strains I recommend for good gut health, as well as a strain of beneficial yeast, which helps to replace an excess of inflammatory yeasts typical of dysbiosis,” she says.
3. Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Probiotics for Women, Once Daily Women’s Probiotics
Why do The Nutrition Twins love these probiotics so? “It contains 50 billion CFUs and 16 strains,” they share. “It’s shelf-stable so you don’t have to refrigerate it. Plus, it contains prebiotic fiber and is gluten- and soy-free.”
4. Daily Benefit by Dr. Morrison Daily Flora Immune
“Daily Flora Immune is one that I’ve been recommending more often, since these strains also have been found to support the immune system and reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections,” says Foroutan. This offering contains a blend of L. plantarum and L. paracasei.
5. Life Extension’s Florassist GI with Phage Technology
“We’re big fans of Life Extension’s Florassist GI Phage because it is unique and it includes bacteriophages and a proprietary probiotic blend that’s been shown to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and promote the growth of good bacteria,” say The Nutrition Twins (worth noting: they work with Life Extension, and value the extent of the research behind their supplements, and personally use a lot of their products). “It’s designed to reach the lower intestine for a greater benefit,” they continue, specifying that this is key since many probiotics don’t do this and that accounts for why they don’t work.
Bonus rec? “We live for their magnesium, too. So helpful during these stressful times, it’s like a massage before bed.”